By: Andrew Lawton
October 29, 2018
There are enough problems in Canada; why bother traveling to another country to cover theirs?
Several critics asked me variations of that question when I announced I’d be attending Tommy Robinson’s contempt of court hearing in the United Kingdom last week. It’s a valid question—one I even asked myself, in fact.
As it turned out, the hearing never happened. Instead, Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard, the most senior judge at the Old Bailey, referred the case to the attorney general, an outcome Robinson and his legal team had been pushing for.
Even so, it was important to be there.
The Tommy Robinson case was never about Tommy Robinson. It was—and still is—about the justice system and the media creating a villain of the man who called out their failings.
Robinson is far from perfect, but on the issue of rape and grooming gangs, he’s not the bad guy. While it’s relevant to look at his past indiscretions to better understand him as a person, this has no bearing on the truth of what’s happening in Luton, Rotherham, Huddersfield, and around Europe.
Those unwilling to confront the evil brutality taking place in these pockets of Europe choose to focus solely on Robinson. When I shared that I’d be covering the case, some people I know who weren’t familiar with him Googled him and raised what they read with me. The media narrative unabashedly defines him as a racist, a criminal, and a hatemonger.
It’s hard to square these labels with the man being cheered on by 1,500 supporters in London last week. These folks—many of whom donated money they didn’t have to spare to Robinson’s legal defense—are concerned with eroding liberties and the abandonment of the rule of law. They see in Robinson a champion for that cause. A hero, even.
He’s the lone man taking aim at the downward spiral they’ve seen in their own neighborhoods. Robinson started waging this war because no one else was. Not when English signs started to be replaced by Urdu ones in his hometown of Luton. Not when certain areas started to become no-go zones.. Not even when girls started to get kidnapped and assaulted.
If you take a scan of Bury Park in Luton on Google Streetview, you’ll think you zoomed in on a town in Pakistan.
It took years for the justice system to finally take aim at the men responsible for the crimes in these communities. But when it did, it fired a larger bullet at Robinson for daring to expose the injustice.
Some of Robinson’s claims about Islam make me immensely uncomfortable, which is why I challenged him on them in an interview last week.
He’s made some significant errors in judgment, from traveling to the United States on someone else’s passport when he was barred from entering the country, to some apparently unscrupulous mortgage transactions. Though he’s distanced himself from the English Defense League, he has to shoulder some of the problems that emerged from the EDL during his tenure there.
Not one of these things justifies the justice system ignoring due process, how ever. None of them make him incorrect in his crusade against rape and grooming gangs, either.
And the media still don’t get it.
Robinson spent two months in solitary confinement before his prior contempt conviction was overturned in August. I can’t think of anyone who would come out and keep fighting the way he did. But it was only through him that people started to pay attention to what was happening to British girls.
If it saved just one of them, it was worth it, Robinson told me. Though he has his freedom back—at least for now—he doesn’t intend on shutting up.
Andrew Lawton is a fellow at the True North Initiative.